Marine aerosols play a dominant role in the transfer of oceanic material to the atmosphere. Most marine aerosol originates when air bubbles burst at the sea surface ejecting material from the sea surface microlayer and bubble surface layers into the air. Concentrations of chemical compounds in these surface layers often differ from their concentrations in bulk water. We examined the enrichment of aerosols with proteinaceous matter and attempted to characterize the physical nature and sources of this matter. We measured concentrations of dissolved free (DFAA), dissolved combined (DCAA), and particulate (PAA) amino acids, transparent stainable particles (TSP), and bacteria and virus-like particles as carriers of protein, in natural and simulated aerosols. We also evaluated D/L ratios certain amino acids in all amino acid fractions. DFAA and DCAA enriched the aerosols we sampled by 1.2-20 times compared to bulk seawater; PAA enrichment was usually higher (up to 50-fold). Aerosols contained particles typical of seawater, e.g., microorganisms, organic debris, inorganic particles with adsorbed organic matter, but also a large number of semitransparent gel-like particles, which all contained amino acids. Some of these particles were probably scavenged from bulk water, but new particles produced as bubbles burst at the surface comprised at least 10% of total proteinaceous matter in the aerosol. D/L ratios of certain amino acid suggested that the particles were most likely made from dissolved polymers secreted by phytoplankton that were concentrated on bubble surfaces and in the microlayer. Examination with Alcian Blue (a dye that targets carbohydrates) and Coomassie Blue (a dye that targets proteins) showed that most TSP in the aerosols contained both proteins and polysaccharides. Microorganisms enriched the aerosols by up to two orders of magnitude, but contributed less than 4% to the total protein pool. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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